When something dies in a state of extreme rage or grief, a curse is born, and its fury destroys everything it touches. But never fear, the Los Angeles Times is here to help with a post-election feature story called “Dejected Voters Find Themselves in an Even Bluer State.” This kind of round-up-the-psychotherapists piece is my favorite paper at its most typical. The Times suggests: “Feelings of grief can be severe for those who backed the defeated candidate. Psychologists say it’s important for them to forge ahead.”
This weekend I finally saw The Grudge, which opens with that bit about something dying in a state of extreme rage, etc. The film takes place in Tokyo and was produced by the same guy who did the much scarier The Ring. It also defies the laws of physics, because if ghosts can grab and tear apart people, then in return can’t people grab and tear apart ghosts? But no one even tries that in The Grudge.
“There’s nothing we can do, I’m sorry,” the Japanese detective tells a wan Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Now even if she’s not Buffy here, Gellar’s still an American, and we handle things differently. I mean, come on, the really rageful ghost in this story–the murderous husband and father–never even makes an appearance. So what we’re talking about is a ghost woman, a ghost child, and a ghost cat. I would have torn off the head of at least one of them and thrown it down the stairs.
But then, of course, I’m a Republican.
And according to the angry, mopey, grudge-driven deconstructions of last week’s events I’ve been reading from the Left, intolerant and aggressively insensitive behavior is what civilized folk have learned to expect from the right these days. People who flock to the polls to vote against gay marriage are just beyond the pale–even if a lot of them (like those Democrats in Oregon) also turned out to vote for Kerry.
I wonder whether they admitted it around Portland water coolers, though. Because there’s no issue right now that brings on moral posturing from liberals more than gay marriage.
It’s been pretty clear for a while that the Right is more forgiving of those who stray from the party line than the Left; I support abortion rights and stem-cell research, for instance, and I’m still here. But it is possible to be a liberal war-hawk. And I suppose it’s at least theoretically possible to be against abortion and on the left, although I can’t think of anyone besides The Village Voice’s Nat Hentoff who’s managed it.
You cannot, however, be against gay marriage and remain a liberal in good standing. That is the line in the sand these days, and if you even think about crossing it, the Left will save you the trouble and kick you out.
It doesn’t matter that 49 percent of Americans are okay with gay civil unions. Nor does it matter if, like me, your problem with gay marriage has nothing to do with religion. Those who showed up at the polls to vote for all those state initiatives defining marriage as between a man and a woman are still dismissed as ignorant and dangerous tools of the Christian Right.
If these defense-of-marriage acts had appeared apropos of nothing but same-sex couples living together and registering at Barney’s for presents and having private ceremonies in front of their families and friends, I’d share the outrage. But of course, that’s not the situation at all; these new laws never would have been written had activist officials in San Francisco and other locales not made such a giant spectacle about defying state law, to a chorus of approving media.
People have a right to their private lives, but defense-of-marriage amendments don’t take this right away. The same-sex marriage agenda is about extending new rights to gays that no one, in the history of the human race, has ever had. The Greeks may have had a word for it, but they didn’t officially sanctioned it on a par with procreative marriage.
And no, that some heterosexual couples are childless doesn’t negate that the essential blueprint for male-female relationships remains procreative, and therefore the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging people who might produce children to stay together and raise them, lest these children become wards of the state and a burden on society. To be consistent, government doesn’t need to start invading the privacy of childless couples by denying them marriage licenses any more than it needs to invade the privacy of homeowners by writing property-maintenance rules into the mortgage-deduction tax break–even though the reason for this benefit is that home ownership improves neighborhoods and stabilizes society.
And yes, of course some renters keep tidy yards and some homeowners are slobs; the answer to this is the same as the answer to the childless couples question: So what? The exceptions prove the rule.
We can tinker with all of this, allowing gay parents tax deductions because they have children; denying single heterosexuals certain benefits because they don’t. I suppose it would be nice if children of same-sex couples could get Social Security benefits from both parents if one dies; it would also be nice if people whose nearest and dearest are their best friends, or siblings, or elderly parents, could claim them as dependents. Why should sex elevate a relationship above all others?
No matter what, someone’s always going to feel wronged. The question is whether it’s worth rearranging the basic building blocks of human society–not to mention clogging up family court with taxpayer-subsidized gay divorces–so a few people can feel better about themselves.
And yet intellectual dishonesty has now become the basic talking point every time gay marriage is discussed in the media. Take the cover story in Parade magazine about Ellen DeGeneres, which ran two days before the election. The interviewer brought up “the hot-button topic of same-sex marriage” and DeGeneres responded: “I absolutely believe in equal rights, whether it’s marriage or any other issue. I want to know that if something happens to me, that [her partner] Alex–who spends her life with me and shares everything with me and supports me in every way–would be taken care of. It’s really just about equal rights.”
It’s really not, obviously: If Ellen wants Alex to be taken care of, all she has to do is write her into her will, in which case Alex, unlike the average heterosexual widow, would never have to work another day in her life. I like DeGeneres; I thought she was great in Finding Nemo. But all this is a perfect example of how loftily out-of-touch the Hollywood branch of the Democratic party makes the party seem with voters.
But that doesn’t mean that Middle Americans are homophobic–if they were, a show like Will & Grace wouldn’t be such a long-running hit. “The story behind Will & Grace is there’s no story,” co-creator Max Mutchnick once remarked, regarding acceptance of the show’s in-your-face gayness. Co-star Megan Mullally, who’s from Oklahoma City, has noted that Will & Grace is remarkably popular even in her conservative home town.
If this is the oppressive and terrifying taste of “Jesusland,” as some people are now calling red-state America, I, for one, can live with it. Meanwhile, one of the L.A. Times’s quote-ready psychotherapists has some advice for grudge-driven blue staters: “They’re allowed to be angry. They’re allowed to be frustrated… But they need now to move on.”
–Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy’s World. She is an NRO contributor.